The Waipahu fire that displaced 36
is traced to bags of clothing
An apartment fire in Waipahu on Tuesday that displaced three dozen residents was started by fireworks that ignited a pile of clothes that had been collected for donations.
The clothing was kept in boxes underneath a tarp-covered area used by residents and neighbors for Bible study twice a week, said resident Tofamamau Laufasa. "We usually donate these clothes," Laufasa said.
Chairs were arranged under the tarp, and carpeting covered the ground. All were burned in the fire, including the boxed clothes.
Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Tenison Tejada said fireworks also ignited some brush next to the tarp-covered area. Laufasa said three kids were playing with fireworks near the apartment building when the fire started. She said fireworks had caused another brush fire next to the apartment the day before.
The three apartments in the two-story complex that were not burned are ground-floor units. And only Unit D, the ground-floor apartment farthest from the source of the fire, escaped water damage.
Grace Tui and her husband lived in Unit D for nearly 20 years. Neither was home when the fire started. Tui was back with one of her daughters yesterday to retrieve some of her belongings. She is staying with another daughter.
Peter Kalles lived in Unit C for six years. Water damaged everything in the apartment he shares with his uncle and his uncle's family.
Kalles was back at the apartment yesterday to retrieve his work uniforms. "Got water (damage), but I need to go work, so I gotta wash them," he said.
A cousin who planned to spend the summer with Kalles is returning to Los Angeles earlier than planned. They are all staying with relatives.
Laufasa lived in Unit B, the only other apartment not burned by the fire, with her parents, a brother and two sisters. She said she was doing laundry when she smelled smoke and saw the fire.
"I ran. I screamed and woke up my neighbors," Laufasa said.
She also called 911.
"They kept putting me on hold because there were two other fires," she said.
Honolulu firefighters were also battling a brush fire at Iroquois Point and a fire at Hawaii Metal Recycling in Campbell Industrial Park.
Because HFD's computer system was not operating yesterday, department officials are reviewing audiotape to determine the exact time of the call, said Capt. Emmit Kane.
Kane said fire officials believe the fire alarm was sounded at 11:42 a.m. and that the first firefighters were on the scene at 11:49 a.m.
The American Red Cross continues to operate a shelter at Waipahu District Park for those who are unable to make other living arrangements.